BACKSIDE ILLUMINATION TECHNOLOGY IMPROVES IMAGE QUALITY, ENABLES DESIGN SHRINKS DOWN TO 0.9 MICRON PIXELS
The following press release shows we are nowhere near the end of possible developments of the basic digital sensor.
OmniVision Technologies, Inc. (NASDAQ: OVTI), the world’s largest supplier of CMOS image sensors, today launched its OmniBSITM architecture, a novel sensor design that adopts a radically different approach to traditional CMOS image sensor technology.
Using backside illumination (BSI), OmniBSI enables OmniVision to continue offering improved image quality while extending its pixel roadmap down to 0.9 micron pixels, which is the key to continued miniaturization of digital imaging technology. OmniVision developed OmniBSI architecture with the support of its long-time foundry and process technology partner, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corporation (TSMC).
BSI methodology involves turning the CameraChip(TM) sensor upside down so that it collects light through what was previously the backside of the sensor, the silicon substrate. This approach differs from conventional front side illumination (FSI) image sensors, where the amount of light reaching the photosensitive area is limited, in part, by the multiple metal and dielectric layers required to enable the sensor to convert photons into electrons. The FSI approach can block or deflect light from reaching the pixel, ultimately reducing the fill factor and causing additional problems, such as cross talk, between pixels. BSI reverses the arrangement of layers so that the metal and dielectric layers reside below the sensor array, providing the most direct path for light to travel into the pixel. This novel approach optimizes light absorption, enabling OmniVision to build a 1.4 micron BSI pixel that surpasses all the performance metrics of 1.4 micron, and even most 1.75 micron, FSI pixels.
OmniBSI architecture delivers a number of performance improvements over FSI, including increased sensitivity per unit area, improved quantum efficiency and reduced cross talk and photo response nonuniformity, which all lead to significant improvements in image quality. Since light directly strikes the silicon, the fill factor of the image sensor is significantly improved so as to deliver best-in-class low-light sensitivity. A much higher chief ray angle enables shorter lens heights which in turn allows for thinner camera modules, which are ideal for use in the next generation of ultra-thin mobile phones. Finally, BSI technology affords a much larger aperture size, which allows for lower f stops facilitating the development of better performing camera modules with superior camera performance.
“Moving FSI pixel architectures down to 1.4 micron and below, under current design rules, poses some real challenges because metal lines and transistors are driving the aperture of the pixel close to the wavelength of light, its physical limit,” said Howard Rhodes, Vice President of Process Engineering at OmniVision. “To overcome this with traditional FSI pixel technology would require a migration to 65 nm copper process technologies, which would significantly increase the complexity and cost of manufacturing. Because it allows for more than three layers of metal, BSI achieves significant manufacturing benefits without moving to smaller process nodes. This means routing can be simplified and die sizes can be smaller than in FSI sensors, without the need to move to smaller process nodes with all their associated complexities and additional costs.”
“Although backside illumination concepts have been studied for over 20 years, up until now nobody has been able to successfully develop the process for commercial, high volume CMOS sensor manufacturing,” said Dr. Ken Chen, Senior Director, Mainstream Technology Marketing, TSMC. “Combining OmniVision’s imaging expertise with TSMC’s experience in process development, we have delivered a truly advanced technology that defines the future of digital imaging.”
“BSI allows OmniVision to further extend its competitive edge in digital imaging technology, while continuing the use of our production-proven, 0.11 micron process technology. This provides major cost and performance advantages for OmniVision and, ultimately, our customers,” concluded Rhodes.
OmniVision is currently demonstrating an 8 MegaPixel, OmniBSI CameraChip sensor, and expects to start sampling first products before the end of June.
OmniVision Technologies designs and markets high-performance semiconductor image sensors. Its CamerChip(TM) products using OmniPixel®, OmniPixel2(TM), OmniPixel3(TM), OmniPixel3-HS(TM) and OmniBSI(TM) technologies are highly integrated single-chip CMOS image sensors for mass-market consumer and commercial applications such as mobile phones, digital still cameras, security and surveillance systems, interactive video games, laptops and PCs and automotive and medical imaging systems. Additional information is available at www.ovt.com.
Certain statements in this press release, including statements regarding the performance achievements and capabilities of BSI, the advantages that BSI provides to OmniVision and its customers, the effect of BSI on future digital imaging and the timing of the release of BSI products, are forward-looking statements that are subject to risks and uncertainties. These risks and uncertainties, which could cause the forward-looking statements and OmniVision’s results to differ materially, include, without limitation: potential errors, design flaws or other problems with BSI; risks associated with developing future architecture and products incorporating BSI; the rapid changes in technical requirements for camera phone products; competitive risks; as well as other risks detailed from time to time in OmniVision’s Securities and Exchange Commission filings and reports, including, but not limited to, OmniVision’s most recent annual report filed on Form 10-K. OmniVision expressly disclaims any obligation to update information contained in any forward-looking statement whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.
OmniVision®, the OmniVision logo and OmniPixel® are registered trademarks of OmniVision Technologies, Inc. CameraChip(TM), OmniPixel2(TM) , OmniPixel3(TM), OmniPixel3-HS(TM) and OmniBSI(TM) are trademarks of OmniVision Technologies, Inc.